Cancer research delayed by coronavirus pandemic by 2 years

Lockdowns, closed labs, slashed costs, and delays to currently ongoing clinical trials are all causing cancer research to score a delay estimated at 2 years by the coronavirus pandemic.

The global Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, but as we enter a new phase of the crisis, some side effects are starting to become strongly apparent. In March and April of last year, most countries opted for more or less restrictive closures to limit transmission of the virus and ensure health care capacity, which also entailed suspending operations of such vital facilities as laboratories working on cancer treatments and universities, interrupting clinical trials and abandoning some projects.

In late 2020, the London-based Institute of Cancer Research, the world’s leading cancer organization, estimated that improvements and advances in cancer treatment were delayed for cancer patients by some 17 months. And now we’re learning that the situation is even worse than thought, with delays possibly as long as two years. – The coronavirus pandemic has brought the greatest threat to cancer research in a generation. I fear that our prediction in the fall of 18 months was an underestimate. Without additional funding to plug pandemic budget holes, cancer patients will wait an additional two years for new treatment options, explains ICR chief Paul Workman.

Jessica Downs, one of the ICR’s principal investigators, says the pandemic has had a much bigger impact on her research than she initially expected. And while her team has heavily modified their work habits to adapt to the situation, they are still far from back to normal. – When we closed our lab at the first lockdown, we were confident that the hiatus would last a few weeks. If someone had told me then that more than a year later we still wouldn’t be back to normal, I wouldn’t have believed it. The team has been making a lot of adaptive changes, but we’re probably still losing a day out of every week,” he explains.

Centers in other countries are speaking in a similar vein; for example, a statement from Australia’s National Breast Cancer Foundation shows that 90% of the country’s breast cancer research has scored at least a year behind schedule, and we’re reminded that Australia is one of the countries coping best with the pandemic. As you can easily guess, the delays are not just in cancer research, and virtually all clinical trials are experiencing problems – just look at Alzheimer’s disease experiments, where seniors, the people most likely to get the disease and severe Covid-19, are needed.

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